This program opens with the documentary film Sound of the Soul which focuses on the Fez Festival of Sacred Music held in the picturesque Arab city where Muslims, Jews, and Christians live together in relative peace, harmony, and co-operation. What is the secret factor which creates such a positive spiritual milieu? Afghan singer Farida Mahwash hints at an answer when she says: "Music has no religion, no borders, no boundaries. Music is the sound of the soul."

Filmmaker Stephen Olsson presents a lively celebration of spirituality, sacred music, and international solidarity in this coverage of the 2004 Fez Festival. Among the memorable performances are those of a Christian brass band from Harlem that reaches the youthful members of the audience, a chorus of female Berber singers from Africa, a French early music ensemble, Irish group Anuna with their ethereal sounds, and the Sirine Choir from Russia. Many of the performers are Sufis, and it is fascinating to see how devotional music is an integral part of their spiritual practice. For them and other mystical musicians and performers, singing and playing are a form of prayer and a way of opening the heart.

In the second section of this episode of Global Spirit, host Phil Cousineau interviews Kabir Helminski, a Sufi shaikh, teacher, musician, and co-founder of the Threshold Society; Marla Kolman Antebi, a Jewish educator and youth organizer who currently serves as the Director of the Coastside Jewish Community Religious School; and Sarah Talcott, Youth Programs Director for United Religions Initiative and creator of youth retreats and workshops. They talk about various elements in the documentary.

Helminski covers the sacred nature of many of the songs which are organized around the Arabic names of God and express a yearning for a divine connection. Antebi states that she hopes that Jewish communities around the world will take more seriously the treasure-trove of music in their religious tradition. Talcott shares her excitement about the ability of sacred music to move and inspire us as a unifying force.

To Continue This Journey:

  • See our profile of Kabir Helminski that includes reviews of his books, quotations from his writings, listings of videos, interviews, and other resources in S&P's Living Spiritual Teachers Project.
  • Join or start a singing meditation group. Ruthie Rosauer and Liz Hill are the authors of Singing Meditation: Together in Sound and Silence. It includes ideas on how to organize, practice, and revel in the interfaith resources available to those who want to sing from their hearts.
  • Explore more resources about music as a spiritual path at Spirituality & Practice. See reviews of books, audios, and DVDs.
  • Share your feelings about sacred music with a soul mate or a friend. Who is your favorite group on the Sound of the Soul documentary? What moved you most about their music? What role does music play in your spiritual life and practice? Who has most inspired you on this path? Talk about a time when an experience of sacred music opened your heart and brought you closer to your divine center or to others around you.